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What is pedophilia?
September 4, 2014 11:09 PM   Subscribe

Is it a condition or an orientation? Can it be corrected? CBC Ideas explores these questions through two real cases.
posted by rhombus (73 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Like most things in life I suspect the behaviour is brought about by a multitude of spectrums. I think there's large swaths of men alive who probably have attraction to younger women. Hence the obsession with "when [x] young actress turns 18". I don't think that any of the people obsessing over Emma Watson were less attracted to her at 16 than now when she's 24. But that attraction doesn't impinge on their ability to be attracted to 30-50 year old women that are more age appropriate. Then you have the spectrum of libido and how powerful the sex drive and its associated impulses are is over your actions.

I guess the problem happens when your attraction is wired exclusively towards the younger end of the spectrum. It's either be a predator or miss out on fulfilling your sexual desires with a loving, willing partner that you're sexually attracted to. And that's a really fucking shitty place to be in life. I don't condone the behaviour of pedophiles but I can certainly try to understand it especially when you're one of the unlucky ones with an attraction of exclusively prepubescent children with an extremely powerful sex drive. Some people aren't strong enough to resist the (sometime powerul) urges I guess. And when they do try to get help it can be extremely difficult.

But sadly, sex has life changing consequences and it's a risk that every adult accepts when they engage in intercourse. For children to be introduce to risks they can't understand little alone have the maturity to accept the results of those risks is ludricious. Which is why we have ages of consent in the first place.

The solution? I don't know. I'm sure there are prepubescent children who are mature enough to understand their actions. There are ways to almost eliminate a lot of the risks through appropriate preparation. But the law is also broad in this regard because they know there are people who would exploit the nuances to coerce young children against their will into sexual conduct willingly. Consent, once given, can't be withdrawn on an ex-post facto basis (although it can be trivially withdrawn on an ex-ante basis) but the desire for acceptance to a young teenager from an older loving admirer can be an incredibly powerful coercive force on their immature emotional state and the deliberate broadness of the law is designed to stop this very behaviour in its tracks.

So a small section of society is now stuck between a rock and a hard place.
posted by Talez at 11:47 PM on September 4 [5 favorites]


I'm sure there are prepubescent children who are mature enough to understand their actions. There are ways to almost eliminate a lot of the risks through appropriate preparation.

WTF?

I am just boggling at this tucked into a long comment.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:50 PM on September 4 [65 favorites]


It's a scary question with frightening implications. I'm not sure "corrected" as far as sexuality obtains is a useful approch.

I think "adults" is the way to approach sexuality.
posted by vapidave at 11:54 PM on September 4


I'm talking purely through statistical and pragmatic terms as a devil's advocate. Basically "are there any nuances the law doesn't take into account"?
posted by Talez at 11:54 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


I recall a documentary film from a ways back where an adult woman decides to press charges against the high school teacher who molested her. Except she consciously seduced him. Which she didn't deny in the movie. That was beside the point. He was an adult. He should've known better.

I can't help but agree with her.
posted by philip-random at 11:58 PM on September 4 [21 favorites]


Like take American Beauty for instance. It's an academy award winning movie with the naked breasts of a child (Thora Birch being 16 at the time). I doubt that would have happened if everyone (including Thora) was confident of the child's ability to know the effects and consequences of her actions and having the emotional maturity to handle them. Everyone was satisfied and if you want to see a 16 year old's tits you just grab the DVD and you have them not only legally but applauded by the creative community.

I can't help but agree with her.

This is why in most cases laws are written that if a teacher has sex with a student, even if that student is of legal age, it's still stat rape simply because of the innate coercive effect that a person of authority can have over not just the direct actions of a student but their entire thought process. The child doesn't know what they're doing but you're supposed to be the adult in a very trusted and intimate relationship, that between a teacher and a pupil.
posted by Talez at 12:02 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Man you guys listen fast. I started the audio 10 minutes after this post went up and its still got a ways to go.

So far I am somewhat dubious of Dr. Federoff's attempts to draw a significant distinction between "sexual orientations" and "sexual interest". Frankly it kind of sounds like a dodge specifically to get around calling it an orientation.
posted by Justinian at 12:08 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


It's either be a predator or miss out on fulfilling your sexual desires with a loving, willing partner that you're sexually attracted to.


You cannot get those desires fulfilled because a child is unable to consent to being a "loving, willing partner". No one has a right to having their sexual desires fulfilled.

Additionally, deciding that children can seduce adults is a strategy used regularly to shame victims of sexual assault/coercion/molestation and it is disproportionately applied to girls of color.
posted by NoraReed at 12:09 AM on September 5 [44 favorites]


You cannot get those desires fulfilled because a child is unable to consent to being a "loving, willing partner". No one has a right to having their sexual desires fulfilled.

I never said that. I only said it's a really fucking shitty place to be.
posted by Talez at 12:12 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


What about the so-called "Cycle of Abuse"? To me this is the central issue around pedophilia, particularly man/boy contact, and it's honestly hard to imagine why anyone would want to be, or even appear to be, an apologist for that.
posted by Zefrem23 at 12:13 AM on September 5


Like take American Beauty for instance.

The Birch's are a provocative illustration given recent coverage.
I was conflicted during scenes of Moonrise Kingdom in its terms of examining adolescent development.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 12:14 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Ohhh, scientist slap fight happenin' on the podcast.
posted by Justinian at 12:21 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


What about the so-called "Cycle of Abuse"? To me this is the central issue around pedophilia, particularly man/boy contact, and it's honestly hard to imagine why anyone would want to be, or even appear to be, an apologist for that.

Because these are some people who are some of the most marginalized in society often with no choice on who they're attracted to, have done nothing wrong and they want and need help.

Pedophilia and child molesterer are not 100% coherent groups on a venn diagram by any stretch.
posted by Talez at 12:27 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


I never said that. I only said it's a really fucking shitty place to be.

I feel confident stating that it is not nearly as shitty a place to be as being sexually abused or exploited.
posted by northernish at 12:29 AM on September 5 [24 favorites]


Well that was disappointing and superficial. They basically had two guys on to assert either that pedophilia was an orientation or it wasn't. There was zero evidence talked about. They flat out just said the equivalent of "it is" or "it is not". I can read that on Metafilter. Ah well.
posted by Justinian at 12:31 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


I think Talez' post clearly shows the very real complexity of this issue; and judging from early the responses to his post, the highly-charged nature of even well-intentioned, meaningful, open, dispassionate (purportedly) scientific analysis that is suggested by this posting. Bottom line: it's an explosive topic.

Pedophilia is wrong by our contemporary moral and legal standards. That said, other cultures treat it differently than we do. We don't agree with those other cultures; they don't agree with us.

As for pedophilia being a pure, inherited orientation? We're nowhere near the point where we can accurately know how 1) early stressors (prenatal hormonal flows; prenatal nutritional dynamics, etc.); or 2) post-natal environmental factors might impact genetic expression in a way that causes the differences in the brain imaging linked to above.

Sexual behavior is extremely complex. We just don't know how or why pedophilia is triggered in some small % of people, and not others.

If pedophilia is found to be a pure orientation - a wired phenomenon - then we might be looking for ways to change it in the womb, or eliminate it altogether via forced abortions. It would be a strangely odd thing, indeed, to hear from early genetic testing that one's fetus might have - or absolutely has - a strong disposition to pedophilia. It sounds like science fiction to me, but then so did a lot of things that are accepted as fact, today.

In the meantime, we need to stay vigilant for our kids, because one thing we know for sure, the victims of pedophilia are badly damaged by it.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:31 AM on September 5 [12 favorites]


I feel confident stating that it is not nearly as shitty a place to be as being sexually abused or exploited.

It's not a pissing contest to see who gets what degree of attention by people looking to help other people. One can hate the situation without wanting a child to be abused.
posted by Talez at 12:32 AM on September 5 [16 favorites]


I'm in near total agreement with Vibrissae's post, and Talez' defensive repsonse to what they perceived to be a pissing contest, except for ...

That said, other cultures treat it differently than we do. We don't agree with those other cultures; they don't agree with us.

Cultural relativism is a lens by which I view a great deal, but I'm hard pressed to cite examples of acceptance other than references to a New Zealand tribe and a Noble prize winner that ended up with a plea bargain (is this even true?).

Because, as Talez pointed out, it is positions of influence and control (implied by disparate ages and experience) to which cultures frame their laws and taboos around pedophilia-- and the variability is low, no?
posted by lazycomputerkids at 12:59 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Betteridge's law of headlines applies.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 1:18 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Cultural relativism is a lens by which I view a great deal, but I'm hard pressed to cite examples of acceptance other than references to a New Zealand tribe and a Noble prize winner that ended up with a plea bargain (is this even true?).

From less than a century ago in American culture:
In 17 states no marriageable ages have been fixed by law and presumably the common law ages are in force—14 for males and 12 for females.
posted by XMLicious at 1:29 AM on September 5


Thanks XMLiscious
posted by lazycomputerkids at 1:31 AM on September 5


Cultural relativism is a lens by which I view a great deal, but I'm hard pressed to cite examples of acceptance other than references to a New Zealand tribe and a Noble prize winner that ended up with a plea bargain (is this even true?).

When one is referring to child marriage they're usually referring to Sharia marriages which (as is my understanding) can be arranged by the father at any time but can be rejected by the bride upon reaching puberty. Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Brunei all come off the top of my head as countries with no real age of consent. Iran has I think 13 years for women. Some Catholic countries in South America (along with the Vatican itself) will happily marry a girl at 14. Bolivia and Paraguay IIRC. And I'm 90% sure Mexico is either 14 or 15 for girls with parental consent.

But I think we're getting off-topic. The great majority of the western world has agreed that 18 is a suitable age in lieu of any sort of reliable, objective test regarding maturity.
posted by Talez at 2:26 AM on September 5


Maybe I'm misunderstanding you but far from the great majority of the western world agreeing to 18 isn't that pretty uniquely American with the rest of the Western World mostly ranging from 14-16?
posted by Justinian at 2:31 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


Age of Consent by country, from Wikipedia. The great majority of the Western world has decided that somewhere between 12 and 18 is the place to put the boundary.

One of the things that makes these discussions so frustrating is that two things get mixed up a lot: pedophilia in the sense of attraction to people who are not sexually mature, and abuse in the sense of sexual relations with someone too inexperienced and powerless to be an equal partner.

This gets weird when people feel the need to insist that they are totally not attracted to a sixteen year old for fear of being labelled a pedophile, but then do countdowns until someone is "legal". That's not pedophilia, it's just attraction to someone you shouldn't sleep with because of the imbalance of power and experience in play.
posted by Zarkonnen at 2:31 AM on September 5 [5 favorites]


Google, I swear I'm only googling this for Metafilter. Pinky swear.
posted by Justinian at 2:35 AM on September 5 [10 favorites]


This is me giving Europe the sideeye for how much of it appears to be under 14.
posted by Justinian at 2:36 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


deciding that children can seduce adults is a strategy used regularly to shame victims

indeed, but you can't just ignore that one source of completely inappropriate "relationships" is puberty-age kids who sometimes try out their new hormonal urges by hitting on people around them, and it's hardly surprising that the people they find "safe" to do this with are sometimes/often the responsible adults in their lives: teachers, coaches, step-parents, etc etc. Who can say they didn't know anyone at school who had a crush on a teacher?

Training on how to deal with this kind of attention is vitally important for people who work with kids. If it's glossed as "children can't seduce adults", then people can (and do) end up at the conclusion that a flirting 14 year old isn't a child.
posted by emilyw at 2:36 AM on September 5 [27 favorites]


emilyw, that's a good point: "Adults can't be seduced by children" is a much clearer phrasing, putting the responsibility where it belongs - on the person with the age, legal responsibility and power. There's usually a social or legal Romeo & Juliet type clause for edge cases, like the 15 year old with the 19 year old boyfriend, but not for the Humbert Humberts.
posted by viggorlijah at 2:44 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


ah, and the extra worst thing is that the kids who are flirting are often "bad kids", whose difficult background perhaps includes a lack of great relationship role models, and a lack of easy sources for respect and love, as well as all the factors that lead them to be "bad kids" in the first place.

When a "good kid" gets into a sticky situation, they get the benefit of the fact that they are a child. They are fundamentally innocent, they could not have consented, they cannot be criminally responsible, they are not morally culpable, yadda yadda.

When a "bad kid" (or I suspect, a black kid) gets in a sticky situation, for some reason people don't see them as a child at all. They ARE seen as morally/criminally culpable, consenting, seducing, likely to be lying, etc etc.

"Children can't seduce adults", or even "Adults can't be seduced by children", is still not enough unless everybody involved can agree that all the children are actually children, even the bad kids, and the black kids, and the kids with big boobs, and the kids from the wrong part of town, and the kids in care homes.
posted by emilyw at 3:31 AM on September 5 [30 favorites]


Abigail Nussbaum wrote a piece on rape culture a couple years ago with a bit on pedophilia that's stuck with me:
It seems far more likely to me that in most cases, pedophilia isn't an individual disorder, but a social one, the product of a culture that teaches men to desire power and control, to fear women's ownership of their sexuality, and to fetishize innocence and weakness. Most of all, it's the product of a culture that teaches men that they are entitled to other people's bodies. Most pedophiles, I believe, rape children because children are easier to rape than adults.
posted by jomato at 3:52 AM on September 5 [32 favorites]


I suspect that lots of those who deal with attraction to minors have the same issues of those attracted to the same sex. Social stigmas, self-denial, higher degrees of other problems such as suicide, substance addiction, etc.

It's hard not watching documentaries like this one, and not concluding that when it comes to treatment for pedophiles, our "experts" are kidding themselves, and are no better than those trying to cure homosexuality. We'd do far better putting them all onto an island and letting them build their own community together.
posted by markkraft at 4:02 AM on September 5 [5 favorites]


The comparison to homosexuality breaks down when you realize that unlike homosexuality, there is no way for a pedophile to live their attraction without causing massive harm. A closer model would be addiction.

The whole "countdown to legality" thing remains simply gross, another expression of the belief that women are property, you just have to wait a given amount of time to regard them as yours to wank over. If it was /just about wanking, the urge would be satisfied with the staggering abundance of images of mature, attractive naked women already in existence. Which means it's really about power over one particular woman/adolescent.

I do not want pedophiles to feel bad because society hates them, I want them to see children as people deserving of protection from the terrible harm of sexual abuse. And to fight their own urges because harming a child to satisfy yourself sexually is an inherently destructive and evil act. In other words, to have empathy.
posted by emjaybee at 4:47 AM on September 5 [10 favorites]


I want them to see children as people deserving of protection from the terrible harm of sexual abuse.

It isn't just pedophiles who need to understand this. In the UK in the 1970's, Jimmy Saville was allowed to have sex with young girls, schoolgirls, because no-one really thought it was that bad. It was wrong if a vicar did it, because they are supposed to be better than me and you, but it was almost expected of people connected to the music industry and showbiz to be lascivious. That's what sex with children was, wrong, but not evil.

Attitudes have changed, but only recently. Although everyone in the UK is stunned by the inaction of the Rotherham police force over the child sex rings in that town, it is worth pointing out that police like to get convictions and a major motivator for their arresting and charging people is if they think they can get a jury who will convict. The police were stupid and lazy, but their actions weren't inexplicable.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:03 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm misunderstanding you but far from the great majority of the western world agreeing to 18 isn't that pretty uniquely American with the rest of the Western World mostly ranging from 14-16?

Honestly, even in America, the age of consent is 16 in most states and 17 in a few as well. It's only 18 in 12 states. I wonder how much of the focus on 18 has to do with that being the age of consent for pornography, especially for celebrity legality countdowns.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:15 AM on September 5


This is a post about pedophelia, not attraction to biologically and physically mature 17 year olds. They're both wrong to act on but they are are two entirely different things. Pedophiles are sexually attracted to prepubescent children who look like children.
The first comment out of the gate got that fact wrong and much of the ensuing discussion has followed along.
posted by rocket88 at 5:50 AM on September 5 [18 favorites]


This is me giving Europe the sideeye for how much of it appears to be under 14.

I mostly watch foreign movies, and I swear that two out of three French movies are coming-of-age stories about a young girl's sexual awakening, usually with an older man. A lot of them are amazing movies in their own right (like François Ozon's latest, Young and Beautiful), but at some point you have to look at the pattern and ask "WTF?" in French.

It seems far more likely to me that in most cases, pedophilia isn't an individual disorder, but a social one

I've only spent time in one country where there was a common pattern of marrying young girls to older men, and I don't think it was in any way accidental that things were shitty there for women in all kinds of other ways, with very few legal protections or support. A society that protects predators (as in the Rotherham example, or countless smaller examples here in the US) is going to have predictable results, and I suspect that refocusing the conversation on the predators and whether or not it is an "orientation" helps to keep attention away from victims and away from the social structures that permit and encourage that abuse.

And I know it's come up before here, but those countdowns to legality are the grossest thing I have seen online. (And more generally, they are part of what to me is a very, very strange phenomenon of men creating online communities around a celebration of solitary masturbation, often to images that violate consent. It's the most visible to me on Reddit (with subforum names like "thefappening" or the creepshot thing) but I see references to it all the time now, where someone posting a photo of a beautiful actress will get immediate responses about jerking off to it.)
posted by Dip Flash at 5:55 AM on September 5 [5 favorites]


 I'm sure there are prepubescent children who are mature enough to understand their actions. There are ways to almost eliminate a lot of the risks through appropriate preparation.

There aren't , you can't. The necessary brain development just isn't there yet in children this young. This isn't exactly controversial or something to debate. I can only assume you got confused and forgot what "prepubescent" actually means because otherwise, ug.
posted by shelleycat at 6:32 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


To go further with what I said earlier, any desire that is inherently, unavoidably exploitative of the other person(s) does not deserve the term "orientation" unless you categorize "sociopath" as an orientation.

As patriarchy weakens, even slightly, we begin to grasp the ways it has warped us, and one of those ways is that children, as much as women, have been/are regarded not as people but as property or objects. I think the acceptance of this kind of abuse/predation is a direct result of that reality, thus the very recent history of allowing adults to seek out and even marry very young adolescents.

Whether the abusers can "help" wanting to commit the abuse is less relevant to me than that they never be permitted to do so. Nor should they be allowed to gloss over the fact that they are not seeking a "relationship" but an opportunity to exploit a very vulnerable human being, regardless of the effect it has on that person.

As a straight person with gay friends, I am not ok with any attempt to equate the desire to exploit children/adolescents with the desire for a healthy relationship with someone of the same sex. They are not in the same universe of behavior.
posted by emjaybee at 6:54 AM on September 5 [5 favorites]


From less than a century ago in American culture:

In the 70s, there was quite a popular trend toward pedophilia in the popular culture, with naturalist nudist magazines and the like featuring young teen girls nude as objects of titillation--heavy-metal band The Scorpions even had a famously controversial cover for their album "Virgin Killer" that depicted a naked underage teen posing provocatively on it.

My grandmother was around 13 or 14 when she got married, due to an unplanned pregnancy. And for older men to marry girls of that age was fairly common and normal in those days.

We talk about this stuff now as if there's no cultural history to it, as if it's always been universally understood that attraction to underage girls is an evil and aberrant perversion, as if it's so puzzling how ordinary people could be tempted into such evil, but the reality is a lot more complex.

I don't say this as apologia for pederasts--quite the contrary. If we really want to understand the problem, we need to look it square in the face. And the reality is, if it's an orientation, how do you explain that our own culture's attitudes on the issue have changed so much over time?
posted by saulgoodman at 6:56 AM on September 5 [9 favorites]


When the Pitcairn sexual abuse scandal exploded, the Islanders defended what happened by saying that it was just what was done and had been done for generations upon generations, that there wasn’t a single girl who reached the age of 12 or 13 as a virgin, and that Britain was unfairly imposing its own standards upon them after ignoring them for over a hundred years. (Re: the latter, yes, Britain should definitely have been up in Pitcairn’s business a lot earlier.)

And yeah, I get cultural relativism to a degree, but when there are children who are part of the culture speaking up and saying how it’s hurt them....
posted by imnotasquirrel at 7:11 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


...if it's an orientation, how do you explain that our own culture's attitudes on the issue have changed so much over time?

I must be confused on the operative definition of 'orientation' in this conversation, because I thought homosexuality was an orientation, and societal attitudes toward it have certainly changed greatly in my lifetime, but I wouldn't argue that change as evidence of it not being an orientation.

I do hope I worded that right.
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 7:17 AM on September 5


This is a post about pedophelia, not attraction to biologically and physically mature 17 year olds. They're both wrong to act on but they are are two entirely different things. Pedophiles are sexually attracted to prepubescent children who look like children. The first comment out of the gate got that fact wrong and much of the ensuing discussion has followed along.

I agree; that's an important distinction. We're talking about a post-pubescent sexually mature person being compulsively (often exclusively) sexually attracted to people who are by definition not sexually, emotionally, or cognitively mature and indeed being attracted by those non-mature qualities.

On the one hand, any sort of strongly ingrained sexual preference, desire, predilection likely has some blend of genetic, neuro-bio-chemical, psycho-social, environmental, cultural, and volitional/choice components, but we really have little idea how much of each, how much the proportions differ between individuals, etc. As a scientific and medical question, it's very interesting and useful to explore.

As a social and political question, it kind of doesn't matter to me in the here and now whether X behavior/tendency/preference is an "orientation" or a "disorder" or "innate trait" or "lifestyle choice" or any other simplistic label. Whatever sexually excites you, in your head, is probably out of anyone's control. If someone is in the grip of compulsive, habitual (or even fleeting) desires to do something harmful, they have my profound sympathy. But adult humans aren't permitted to engage in sexual behaviors with beings who can't form competent rational judgments about them. Competent adults are not permitted to engage in sexual-gratification-activity with, for example, someone in a coma, or someone with dementia, or someone who is a dog, or someone who is too stoned to form a sentence, or someone who is an 8 year old human. Many situations related to competence and consent and power dynamics and what does/doesn't make people "sexual peers" are difficult and dicey, but those ones aren't, for me.

If someone can't or chooses not to prevent themselves from engaging in those behaviors, then I have zero problem sympathetically. understandingly, humanely, and permanently, if necessary, separating them from any access to the objects of their desire.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:17 AM on September 5 [5 favorites]


> "We talk about this stuff now as if there's no cultural history to it ..."

Pedophilia [or paedophilia]: An adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children, generally age 11 years or younger.

There is actually not a lot of cultural history approving of that.

It is true that there have indeed been a lot of differences, depending upon place and time, in the legal "age of consent" for people who are NOT prepubescent, a point which has ranged from young adolescence to older than it currently is today. It is also a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SUBJECT ALTOGETHER and why are we talking about it here exactly?
posted by kyrademon at 7:18 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Saul Goodman wrote:

If we really want to understand the problem, we need to look it square in the face. And the reality is, if it's an orientation, how do you explain that our own culture's attitudes on the issue have changed so much over time?

I think the big hangup in these conversations is making laws on the sole basis of physical age when physical age often belies mental and emotional maturity. The predominant sexual attraction adult heterosexual males have is toward a woman who seems capable of bearing children. When you strip away our man-made civilization, the predominant and driving force of our existence is to procreate. Evolution has taught us to desire bodies that can carry a fetus to term, nurse that child to heath and to be able to repeat this arduous process every two years - hence the attraction to "curves". Women's bodies mature at different stages from 13-18 which explains the varying laws from different states/countries. But I feel the gray area is the fact that no one ever takes into account emotional and mental maturity. Emotional and mental maturity are wholly unconnected to age. I'm met 30 year olds with the mentality and emotional maturity of a child and 20 year olds who are more intelligent and emotional secure than most 50 year olds. To rate someone's decision making ability based solely on age is, in not only a problem for consent laws, but also for drinking laws, marriage as well as motor vehicle licensing just to name a few. We have schools that develop mental maturity but where does one turn in our society when they are not given the tools or support to mature emotionally at home? It seems that many of these people profiled in these stories are people who have matured physically and mentally but are in some form of emotional arrested development.
posted by any major dude at 7:33 AM on September 5


And religious groups like the "Children of God" (now "Family International") in the late 60s and 70s were actively encouraging adherents to engage in pederasty as a form of faith practice. So this seems like another case where there's all this unacknowledged/just below the surface cultural architecture priming and preparing people to believe and act in certain ways but then, every individual case of it that gets called out publicly is viewed as a "lone nut" behavior.

I must be confused on the operative definition of 'orientation' in this conversation, because I thought homosexuality was an orientation, and societal attitudes toward it have certainly changed greatly

You may have a point, but the difference I was trying to highlight is that our cultural standards accepted many of these behaviors and attitudes as fairly normal in its recent past. The culture's view of itself has changed. For the better. But homosexuality is not even the same kind of issue as pederasty. People's objections to homosexuality are based on the premise that other people's consensual behaviors can hurt third-parties merely by being aesthetically repugnant to them. Sexual molestation is not a consensual behavior between responsible parties. It's not even close to the same category of thing.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:36 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


There is actually not a lot of cultural history approving of that.

No, there isn't. But the law doesn't really distinguish, and many times when some story about sexual predators or pedophilia makes the rounds, it's a story involving young teens, not prepubescent children. And again, the law doesn't distinguish anyway and most people in the culture don't distinguish either, and they probably shouldn't, because it's not like reaching 12, or beginning puberty magically makes someone sexually mature and able to participate on an equally responsible, level-footing with significantly older partners.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:45 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


When you strip away our man-made civilization,

I'm not really of the opinion that we can do that. Humanity is characterized by our civilization-creating abilities. How far back do taboos and rituals go? Or rules of group behavior like "it is not ok to kill another human unless in X circumstance." These things go back very far in our history. Deciding who can mate with who falls under this category. Even other primates have their own "rules" of behavior in groups. Is that culture or biology?

Also, girls who get pregnant very young have a far higher rate of miscarriage (and presumably in premodern societies, death in childbirth). Gestation takes an enormous toll on a body, and the ability to produce eggs and have them fertilized does not equal the ability to carry a child to term. It may also be true that in actual gatherer-hunter situations where food is more scarce, that girls didn't actually mature as quickly, and so they weren't reproducing at 12 because they didn't start menstruating that early. Child marriage/pregnancy may be a result of the agricultural revolution's increasing food availability, and thus be as much cultural as biological. Not to mention that it is closely tied to ideas of the ownership of women and the need to marry women who are guaranteed "pure" and "unused," which is easier if they are children too young to have reproduced or have any contact with other men.
posted by emjaybee at 7:51 AM on September 5 [7 favorites]


"The comparison to homosexuality breaks down when you realize that unlike homosexuality, there is no way for a pedophile to live their attraction without causing massive harm. A closer model would be addiction."

As compared to what some people would say about homosexuals 50 years ago:

"The comparison to heterosexuality breaks down when you realize that unlike heterosexuality, there is no way for a homosexual to live their attraction without causing massive harm. A closer model would be addiction or mental illness."

In this case, I am not denying the "massive harm", but I think it's also harmful to inaccurately write off their feelings as just an addiction, especially if science increasingly suggests it's an attraction and identity that can't really be changed.

What I think needs to be said is that these people are yet another aspect of variety in human nature. They are a kind of "normal" that shouldn't be stigmatized as insane or addicted, but that unfortunately should not be allowed to live in the outside world, with the rest of us.
posted by markkraft at 8:03 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Okay I'm 15 minutes in.

TL;DR version: Paedophilia being an orientation doesn't really change my mind about whether or not we should attempt to "treat" it, because the logic that applies to other orientations does not apply here.

Long version:

I can accept the idea (and evidence) that sexual attraction to children comes from physiological conditions of the brain, but like others in this thread I'm struggling with the idea of pedophilia as an orientation...at least in the same sense as as hetero, homo, bi, pan, etc.

I think in the abstract, that is possibly unfair? If we have decided--"we" meaning society, in a broad but not entirely inclusive sense--that "shape" of one's brain contributes to their sexual orientation for hetero, homo, bi, pan etc, and that these are not aberrations, then it follows that an attraction to children should be considered one.

But if I accept that, I still end up at "so what?". Physiology is not what determines what we should accept as Okay. What is Acceptable is a social construct, and (one hopes) there are good reasons for drawing the boundary of "social" and "anti-social" (not always...be optimistic with me for a moment :P). The purpose of society is to create a network of certain benefits for humans as group, at the expense of a certain amount of individual freedom...especially the kind of freedom that lets you cause harm to other people.

Homosexual activity is not inherently harmful to the individual, or society (the arguments to the contrary are weak and have little to do with what makes a healthy society, so lets just conveniently ignore those :P). In fact I'm inclined to argue that any sexual behavior between two consenting adults is A-Okay and has no negative impact on society as a whole.

I'm talking about *action* rather than impulse, because that's where I get hung up on the Sympathy for the Offending Paedos.

I need to keep listening, and see if the Orientation example guy offended, and what his attitudes towards sexual *activity* with children is. I've seen arguments that it can be normal, respectful and healthy, and...I don't buy them.

If you're going to argue physiology, then you need to apply it to both sides. We have a lot of scientifically supported knowledge around the physical and emotional development of children, and the vast majority points to the conclusion that they are not "equipped" to engage in sexual activity with adults, that such a relationship can never be balanced or equitable, and that children cannot meaningfully consent for reasons that, in the end, boil down to the situation in their wee little brains.
posted by menialjoy at 8:04 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


"I'm struggling with the idea of pedophilia as an orientation...at least in the same sense as as hetero, homo, bi, pan, etc."

A few years back, we got a call out of the blue. It was from a friend of ours -- a really sweet guy -- who was a gay male in a sometimes fractious but loving relationship with another friend of ours. The friend we got a call from was the upper 30's bear type, the other was kind of a young 20something cub. They moved to Las Vegas, and after that point, we rarely heard from either of them, though we did hear they had broken up.

Well, turns out that after they had broken up, the older bear type chatted online with this young gay teen -- about 15 -- and that they had arranged to meet up. I don't know all the details -- he claimed to be trying to protect the kid in question, who was trying to get away from bad circumstances, but that things developed between them and they had sex -- but basically it led to an arrest for sex molestation. He needed a character reference / statement made about his prior behavior.

So, I wouldn't view "orientation" as exactly the right word, in that it doesn't define the oftentimes hardwired aspects of attraction to a given gender, but what the experts seem to be saying is that attraction towards others who are at a certain stage of development can also be hardwired. IOW, it sounds like it's a helluva lot more set in stone than a "proclivity". "inclination", or other words that might be used as a substitute, making "treatment" just as ridiculous and potentially barbaric as trying to treat homosexuality.
posted by markkraft at 8:26 AM on September 5


> like others in this thread I'm struggling with the idea of pedophilia as an orientation...at least in the same sense as as hetero, homo, bi, pan, etc.

I've seen on Metafilter stories of people that are sexually attracted exclusively to inanimate objects, or imaginary beings, or.. god.. so many strange things on the internet. An attraction to real human children seems almost "normal" compared to all that.
posted by anti social order at 8:42 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


markkraft, I think it would be beneficial to everyone to ease off of the stigma around pedophilia. If people are afraid to get help, they won't do it, and that increases the potential for harm.

Also it would help us answer a question I've had for yeeeaaars: What is the ratio of people who act on those impulses to those who don't?

(On previewing, this applies to your second comment as well)

He (the first guy from the OP audio) acted on those desires effecitvely because he *had* them, because they were an obsession and ultimately because he felt entitled on some level to realize them. This is a theme among these kinds of stories, and it's a sticking point for me. There are tons of people who have recurring sexual fantasies and desires that aren't even *harmful*, and never act on them (with other people).

This is my hang-up on being more sympathetic: You hear this guy talking about "everyone deserves a second chance" and "I made a mistake and I'm not proud of myself". But he knew it was wrong to act on those desires. And he did it anyway. And he doesn't have any of that delusional "we had a loving relationship (ie I groomed them), and I was respectful and gentle and courteous and it was loving and healthy" stuff I've seen elsewhere.

I know there are paedophiles who are determined never to act our their desires, and I have no doubt that they succeed. I wish we had more stories from them, because there is a cultural narrative that strongly implies that someone with these urges will eventually "give in" and act on them. Which is not something that we apply to anyone else who commits sexual assault, unless there is something "wrong" with them (personality disorder, and such).

So, did this guy become a rapist *because* he's a paedophile, or did the paedophilia just determine his target? Is the actual act of *assault* a social problem (patriarchy and male sexual entitlement, no "outlet" for desires that do not cause harm), or is it come attached to those proclivities?

Fwiw, I'm inclined to give paedophiles as a whole the benefit of the doubt and say that we have a skewed picture of how many will offend, because the vast majority wouldn't voluntarily out themselves in public (and who could blame them?).

If I'm wrong, though...I cannot see how attempting to "treat" them is any more barbaric than treating a personality disorder in someone who acts on compulsions to (more generally) harm people. In your previous post, you say:

"unfortunately (they) should not be allowed to live in the outside world, with the rest of us."

If First Guy has really learned how to function, then this attitude is surely more barbaric than sympathetic treatment options. If there are methods that are effective in helping these people, and you offered a choice between "learn how to function in society" and "be removed from society", I think most would opt for the first.
posted by menialjoy at 9:03 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


I've seen on Metafilter stories of people that are sexually attracted exclusively to inanimate objects, or imaginary beings, or.. god.. so many strange things on the internet. An attraction to real human children seems almost "normal" compared to all that.

Yeah, but as I go on to say about other orientations:

If a lady marries a fence, astral projection, deity, absolutely no harm will come from it, to society or to the individual(s) involved.

Eh, unless she makes out with a particularly splinter-y part of the fence.

Or like, the deity's wife gets jealous so he turns her into a cow and then she's chased around Greece by a cloud of angry wasps.
posted by menialjoy at 9:17 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


You can attempt to understand people without having to condone their behavior or give them a licence to perform their urges.
posted by Talez at 9:27 AM on September 5 [8 favorites]


I...don't know where I said or implied that you couldn't?

The first sentence of my second post is "I think it would be beneficial to everyone to ease off of the stigma around pedophilia", and that's precisely because there are things we should work harder to understand, for the sake of these adults and for children.
posted by menialjoy at 9:42 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Potentially triggery stuff ahead...

So - as a child, I had fantasies about my mother's friends. Lots of lingerie imagery (how I knew what that was I'm not quite sure, in particular garters...) Regardless, this was something that a 6-10 year old me definitely had.

I recall, once, seeing a Donahue episode where they were discussing a woman who kidnapped a child and had the child tied to the bed. A young boy. For whatever reason I had a strong impulse/desire to be that child. I was a child myself at the time.

I'm fairly glad I never actually experienced that (especially considering that IIRC, the implications were that she kidnapped the child and this was not a willing act), but it's still something I wonder about.

For most of my life I've been attracted to things that aren't "the norm" (I could make a list, but suffice to say it wasn't young people).

The girl I lost my virginity to was 17 and I was 19. She "had a reputation". She seduced a coworker of mine while he was 27; we both worked at the same place and he was both our managers... She admitted she was being abused by her stepfather and while she told me to keep it secret, hell no. So I told her mother (a manager of where we worked). He was arrested, I testified at the trial (for his defense, which really it's just my own "she said" because I had no other knowledge than what she told me). He went to jail and hung himself a few years later. I think it's good - there were two younger girls in that house, and one boy.

A couple years later after I'd moved outta town and went back for a visit (I was still friends with her mom a bit), it was only her younger sister who by that time was somewhere around 14-16, IIRC, and their younger brother who was I think 11 or 12. As I said, I wasn't attracted to young people, older women/"grannies" were my thing. She had sat on my lap as if I were an older brother, this girl. She had also been wearing a silky gown or whatever. She was also rubbing around. Clearly attempting to get a reaction. As a young man of 21 years old, well... Yes, there was a physiological reaction. Her brother realized what she was doing, and I am sure he sensed my own physiological energy shift and pulled her off of me and was very insistent on that separation happening. I am VERY glad he did.

I never thanked him for that; I don't know if I saw either of them after that, I only visited a couple more times, and saw the mother one time and the mother/my ex and her then husband another. But I do wonder if I would have given in, not because I was attracted to young people but because the fact I was a physical creature at around the peak age of physical excitability...

As for people being excited by young people, I think there's a couple issues at play. I will say that over the years my own horizon has expanded to appreciate many different types of bodies and people, I've become less -- paraphelic... It's similar to how I was very picky about my food as a child and learned to appreciate a wider range of foods.

I think there is probably some issue regarding fecundity that arises when discussing this issue in our society. I think the discussion of whether someone is mutually exclusive in their attraction is certainly something to consider.

I think almost everyone can agree that pure pedophilia (that is pre-pubescent children) is wrong; we often use the term pedophile as a catch-all, but there is also hebe/ephebe-philia which is about pubescent age children; and I think we often are referring to that than the alternative, which is obviously super disturbing (and I would have been a victim of had I given in to my own desires or been able to "seduce" someone to giving into my desires as a 7 year old child).

In the end, no matter how mature or smart or capable a young person is, the fact is that their ability to reason is still in formation; For the same reason I think kids shouldn't be engaging in mind altering substances much at such an early age, so too, does engaging in an experience like this affect their development, and ultimately, when it comes to adult/child relationships, the ability to comprehend the structural relations of power in society and the boundaries that are healthy and the ability to discriminate between abusive/controlling and non-controlling (I wouldn't even say it's about intellectual capability, but emotional capability: You simply do not have the emotional maturity to understand what it is you're doing. I considered myself a fairly "mature" kid at that age, but I realize how much I really wasn't. I can't imagine how much more a child who had even less wisdom regarding their emotions and the ability of people to manipulate it or to not tie those emotions into something much larger than what they really are (i.e. "falling in love" because of butterflies in the stomach))

I can't say that in theory I oppose the concept as an orientation - I most assuredly think it might be an orientation (especially for those who are absolutely true pedo/hebe/ephebe-philes vs those who have minor attractions for evolutionary reasons but also are capable of maintaining mature and responsible relationships with those of an appropriate age), but it's definitely an orientation around which there can be no solution, no matter how willing a young child may be as a participant, they just do not have the maturity.

Sheesh, I guess I wasn't expecting to type so much, but I figured I'd share a more personal take on it that can understand the complexities, realize why it's wrong, but also, as a child who DID have certain urges/fantasies, also recognize that such things exist and not just wipe it aside as a farcical claim.

I think in societies that aren't as modern or urbanized, with a higher death rate, a larger birth-rate, there may be a reason for this sort of attraction evolutionarily; but just because certain things happen for evolutionary reasons in one era/period/society doesn't mean that the context and environment in the current situation in our modern, first, world reflects the same needs for the previous environment that spawned these effects.
posted by symbioid at 10:01 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


What I think needs to be said is that these people are yet another aspect of variety in human nature. They are a kind of "normal" that shouldn't be stigmatized as insane or addicted, but that unfortunately should not be allowed to live in the outside world, with the rest of us.

I'm honestly rather flabbergasted that anyone could think pedophilia wasn't an orientation, whether or not it's driven by nature or nurture (likely a combination of the two, I suspect). Because who the hell would choose pedophilia? What possible gain could there be beyond either A. a life of faking normal (and living with all the attendant neuroses) B. a life of outright sexual isolation or C. acting on one's urges and not being "... allowed to live in the outside world with the rest of us, or living a life of fear of getting caught."
posted by philip-random at 10:13 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


Are people who commit murder "oriented" to be murderers, then, because all the same penalties apply? I don't think you can argue from the consequences/symptoms back to the root problem.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:24 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


On further thought, I guess the difference might be, most people aren't expected to have or express a healthy amount of blood lust/violent behavior in their ordinary lives. Still skeptical you can argue back from consequences to causes, though.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:27 AM on September 5


I get really perplexed by all these "Is yata an orientation?" conversations because I'm not sure we're all talking about a shared understanding of what "orientation" means, if it means anything at all. People use the term to mean all sorts of stuff, but at least in the mainstream dictionary sense, sexual orientation refers exclusively to the gender designation(s)/presentation(s) of partners a person is attracted to or prefers, as a relatively stable/longterm element of one's sexual identity.

If we start from there, and I'm not sure we do start from there, then you can't even get to "Is yata an orientation?" until you first discuss, "Is it useful or meaningful or appropriate to expand the construct of 'orientation' to include any elements of sexual attraction/preference/identity other than partner-gender?"

I think when the whole "Is X an orientation?" issue comes up, people read that single question to mean any of many very, very different things, such as:

Is X genetic/biological/innate/inborn?
Is X something a person can choose, change, decide?
Is X something a person should be protected from discrimination and oppression on the basis of?
Is X something that should be socially accepted/approved?
Is X a beneficial, harmful, adaptive, maladaptive, moral, immoral, amoral, and/or value-neutral trait?

And you might answer "yes, I think so" to any one of those questions while answering "no" or "maybe" or "I don't know" to others. If you're surprised or horrified or amazed that someone else is answering the question "Is pedophilia an orientation?" differently from how you do or how you think they should, it's probably because they are interpreting that question to mean something different from the way you understand it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:32 AM on September 5 [6 favorites]


Talez: I'm sure there are prepubescent children who are mature enough to understand their actions.
Talez: Like take American Beauty for instance. It's an academy award winning movie with the naked breasts of a child (Thora Birch being 16 at the time). I doubt that would have happened if everyone (including Thora) was confident of the child's ability to know the effects and consequences of her actions and having the emotional maturity to handle them. Everyone was satisfied and if you want to see a 16 year old's tits you just grab the DVD and you have them not only legally but applauded by the creative community.
16 != child.
16 != prepubscent.
16 = age at which many women worldwide become mothers, including one in my HS grade.

You are making the very common mistake of conflating pre--but-near-legal-age consensual sexuality with pedophilia - which, by definition, involves prepubescent children. I'd bet many of us had enjoyable, worthwhile sexual experiences as 16yos. That is not the same thing at all.

Attraction to pubescent but sexually immature adolescents, BTW, is hebephilia, not pedophilia. They are similar but different; both involve unfair and manipulative power dynamics, but I think everyone would agree that raping a 6yo is far, far more heinous than having consensual* sex a 16yo (*whether or not you view the 16yo as having "agency" over their sexual choices).
posted by IAmBroom at 10:53 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


I think when the whole "Is X an orientation?" issue comes up, people read that single question to mean any of many very, very different things, such as:

excellent point.

Except even in the multiple choices offered, there is no, "that gender/age/other we feel most sexually compelled toward, regardless of whether this compulsion is biologically, socially, experientially derived". That is, conscious choice has nothing to do with it. Because I must reiterate. Short of a b-grade movie villain, who would choose to be a pedophile?
posted by philip-random at 11:10 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Are people who commit murder "oriented" to be murderers, then, because all the same penalties apply? I don't think you can argue from the consequences/symptoms back to the root problem.

A few surely have what we'd call massive personality disorders, which would be fundamental "orientations" roughly analogous to pedophilia. It's not a crime to be a sociopath or narcissist, and there are people with those tendencies that are gentle as lambs, but if being that leads you to harm people, off you go to Sing Sing or a secure treatment facility. Like anything neuro-bio-chem-psycho-sexual-social-cultural, these tendencies or whatever you want to call them exist on a multi-dimensional spectrum of variation, degree, type, etc.

In line with what philip-random just said, I guess maybe how I broadly envision "orientation" is that it's something that feels like one's individual default setting in a major way (whether sexually or otherwise). This is all probably way easier for people with strongly established and defined and powerful sexual attractions/impulses to articulate; in my life all that stuff is really variable and fluid and amorphous and trivial.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:24 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


To quote Talez: Pedophilia and child molesterer are not 100% coherent groups on a venn diagram by any stretch.

The issue seems similar to a bestiality issue, in that the fetishized object is in fact a living being, but cannot intelligently consent to sex. They really should address different fetishes and how to deal with them in sex ed.
posted by halifix at 12:18 PM on September 5


Because who the hell would choose pedophilia? What possible gain could there be beyond either A. a life of faking normal (and living with all the attendant neuroses) B. a life of outright sexual isolation or C. acting on one's urges and not being "... allowed to live in the outside world with the rest of us, or living a life of fear of getting caught."

This seems to be kind of a logical dead-end. "X must be a thing out of one's conscious control/choice because nobody would choose it because the consequences for it are so horrible and undesirable" is totally bound to sociocultural context.

For instance, consider the United States in 1895. According to the New York Times, the age of consent for girls was 10 in four states and 7 in Delaware. Ye gods. So apparently if some Wilmingtonian man hooked up with an agreeable second-grader, there was substantially less downside than nowadays. When it comes to actions, people choose to do all sorts of things that may seem gainless to me but are rewarding to them in some way.

But when it comes to preferences and likes and dislikes and emotions, we're largely outside the realm of choice and cost-benefit analysis. It's no more "reasonable" or rewarding for me to like cilantro than for you to hate it, we just do, although we can certainly purposely try to cultivate or diminish a given affinity, some more successfully than others. The whole function of social taboos is to condition people to be "naturally" revolted by things they might otherwise find appealing. Considering that nobody fully understands how and why our cilantro preferences arise, I doubt we're going to exhaustively explain the origins and developmental mechanisms of sexual predilections anytime soon.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:31 PM on September 5 [2 favorites]


The issue seems similar to a bestiality issue, in that the fetishized object is in fact a living being, but cannot intelligently consent to sex

This is a gray area in my experience. This is what makes the problem so difficult. I accept that, in my earliest experiences, as an "object," as you put it, I was not fully aware of the consequences. But you could say that about any teenager. Should I have waited until I was 18 or 21, when I would supposedly be "wise"?
posted by SPrintF at 6:32 PM on September 5


Are people who commit murder "oriented" to be murderers, then, because all the same penalties apply?

Funny you should ask - as murder-porn is definitely a thing. The deal is, tho, that those consuming it know damn full well no-one is actually being stabbed/strangled/stepped-on-by-a-giant-furry - and the notion of a real person being killed for their pr0n, or actually taking up the knife to satiate their desire, is abhorrent and incomprehensible.

That line between fantasy and reality seems really goddamn thin for pedos. There has been only three confirmed cases of actual snuff porn, all of them man-on-man violence. Pedo porn, where actual children are abused, is gigabytes prolific, to the point where Google can identify and report the images of actual children being abused by automated signature, and does so daily.

I feel bad for people desiring that which cannot be - but in this case, with this much actual harm done to people I know personally - dammit. It sickens me it's used as an excuse to curb freedom of expression, I don't like it, but I like the alternative less.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:43 PM on September 5


Let's see, nature or nurture. Um, can we have cleansing here? While we're about it, maybe we can straighten out all those other people who seem to have issues with their sexuality.

The legal approach to distinguishing between children and adults is to select an arbitrary age, hen pass a law; concomitant with the law comes various penalties one ought to get for stepping across that oh so bright line. That tactic give rise to situations such as the one we had, not that long ago, where a young man was considered old enough, at 18, to be drafted into the military--visit exotic foreign lands, meet interesting people and kill them--but not old enough to drink alcohol. This is only half the parallel, but the idea is that we were protecting our youths against the ravages of alcohol. We look back on this and laugh. It wasn't funny then.

I believe a similar conundrum exists with the notion of stat rape...the legal term. Pedophilia seems to have more nuanced description--this is a medical term; it seems to describe a continuum. But the medical issue doesn't confront the legal one. I guess we could get 100% agreement on the notion that adults should not fuck children, but we have a lot of opinions on whom we call a child. By definition, children cannot give legal consent to anything, without the approval of a legal guardian. In the real world the situation is more complex. Holding adults to a higher standard than children seems correct. The problem resides only partly in ambiguity in the terms.

Our best response seems to be to draw an arbitrary line in the sand, and ignore any persons who don't fit the artificial image we've constructed. The 19 year old young man will suffer legal penalties for having sex with the 16 year old young woman, because the law has drawn an arbitrary line, rather than because he may have violated her in some way. The 16 year old young woman wants to be considered as a responsible being, but this right is obviated in an attempt to protect her. The "adults should know better" riposte in this case sounds rings false.

In fact, I agree that adults should know better, and a child should be guided away from inappropriate behavior, not taken advantage of. But drawing conclusions from an arbitrary legal distinction is deadly wrong. It places the burden in the wrong place. It's not enough to distinguish between adults and minors by drawing a number out of the hat. In recent times, the LGBT community was firmly ensconced on the "extra-legal" side of this ledger. They were either tolerated or harassed, depending on where they lived, regardless of whatever laws were in place that related to them. As more and more people become aware of how complex our sexuality is, laws change to accommodate these facets of human behavior. Our notions of when a person engage in sex (to varying extents) is similarly fluid.

Like the draft, the laws regarding minors seems to not really address the issues. They may be good faith attempts, but at best they create a swampy area that too many people cannot navigate with any certainty. Laws regarding the LGBT community have traditionally been based not on science, but on what amounts to a potpourri of moral codes. It seems to me that the burden of the law is to figure out whether and what harm has been done, rather than just throwing numbers into the air see what happens. Mostly, though we have to rely on sensible and ethical adults. I guess sensible adults are in short supply.

Anyhow, using age as the major metric here is the opposite of helpful, in that it pretends to give a solution to a serious concern. If you tried to figure that a 13 y/o is only 50% adult, and a 16 y/o is perhaps 75% adult, and you don't get to be 100% until you are 18, then it's easy to see why this is a bad idea.

I can't figure a simple way to make laws protect children from predatory adults without setting up counterproductive restrictions.

In the nightmare, we use science to peruse the genome and remove the unwanted tendencies from the DNA strand. Or maybe we let the newly ensconced theocracy run the show: death to the non-believers. I'm pretty sure Orwell's visions were well within our tendencies.
posted by mule98J at 7:43 PM on September 5


I feel sorry for them. I've heard some stories where it sounds like the men were trying to court them in some kind of romantic fashion. How horrible would it be to never be able to life partner, to only be attracted to people who aren't even close to you mentally, and your sexual attraction to them will only go away once they get bigger in a few years?

This post brought to you by watching the South Park episode "Miss Teacher Bangs A Boy" last night.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:08 PM on September 5


How is it any different from a guy who refuses to accept that a woman he thinks of as his true love is unattainable to him? We usually consider guys who complain of being friend-zoned as creeps. Guys who won't accept that they aren't entitled to get the individual woman of their dreams are assholes, but guys who won't accept that a slightly more generalized object of desire is not theirs to take is an object of sympathy?
posted by saulgoodman at 4:56 PM on September 6 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think it's a big part of rape culture that everyone has a right to attempt to fulfill their sexual desires, even when those desires are totally fucked up and come from society being totally fucked up. The whole "oh boo-hoo poor pedophiles they'll never be able to fulfill their desires" thing is a part of that, because, like, there are lots of desires people have that they'll never be able to realize and they fucking deal with it. This is also an attitude that ends up fucking with asexual and demisexual folks.
posted by NoraReed at 11:29 PM on September 6 [2 favorites]


I'm honestly rather flabbergasted that anyone could think pedophilia wasn't an orientation, ... Because who the hell would choose pedophilia?

I've obviously had some very different experiences in life, which mean I'm actually a bit perplexed when people assume pedophiles are necessarily attracted to childrens bodies.
I don't think they are, always.

Lets use the analogy of kinks, versus orientations.
Have you heard of people with kinks, that are stronger than their sexual orientation? I.e. people who'd rather be tied up or beaten by someone of either sex, than have 'vanilla' sex with someone of their preferred orientation?

There are rapists who have and had the opportunity to have consensual sex with their gender of choice. Sometimes they have wives or girlfriends at home. Instead, they chose and CHOOSE to rape. Why?
Because sometimes it's the non-consent that is what is getting them off. Consensual sex, playacting non-consensual sex, just isn't as 'exciting'.
I think that's very common with pedophiles, straight out rape, as is the fantasy of having sex with someone who does not, or better, cannot be sexually aroused, or enjoy it. Entirely 'selfish' sex. There's also outsmarting/degrading/grooming.
Other 'pedos' are getting off on size differences, which has a big cultural narrative behind it, as does "the dominant partner should be smarter".
Honestly, I think that by itself would explain the correlations with shorter, less intelligent men, and pedophilia. People want to predate on those smaller, more vulnerable, and less mature than themselves (rather than people who are not smaller, etc).

In another thread, someone was talking about a pedo who had the most massive crying guilt trips about it - and how this implied it was an orientation. Except, my initial assumption was to wonder if they were getting off on feeling *guilty*.
Guilty/creepy/wrong is a big kink, and how many things are there to do that are genuinely wrong to that degree? Pedo porn/fiction often jumps straight to the bottom of the barrel, and scrapes around to find all the related totally wrong things - incest, rape, bestiality - to a degree that makes me think that the child is just a placeholder for doing something really, really WRONG.

I think those root-kinks, are often then associated with children, not the other way round.

Anyway, point being, I believe for most pedos, it's as much an orientation as being a rapist is.
posted by Elysum at 5:40 PM on September 7


This seems rather relevant: Paedogeddon!
posted by holist at 12:32 AM on September 12


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